Niagara Falls.

Thankfully we got off to an early start to see the falls as I heard it’s incredibly crowded in the afternoons.    We opted to head for Goats Island first where you can walk to the Bridal Veil Falls and watch the Maids of the Mist nose in close inside the curves of the horseshoe.   The sound the falls makes is awesome,  I had forgotten as it’s been close to 40 years since I was last there.   This was the first time for Kathy.

We took a bunch of pics and walked all around then headed for the path to the American Falls.    Funny thing is there are no signs to get you to either falls by walking, and they are very close. All the signs are for the concessions:   Trolleys,  Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, etc.   Herd the cattle this way and that for a small fee.

It was a delightful stroll over there.   It was a beautiful morning with a light breeze and maybe 70 degrees.  Not at all what I remember about August on the East Coast.  It is a beautiful pathway and bridges around the river and the rapids before you actually see the falls!

The American Falls are almost straight across, but you can get right out over them and look down, which is very cool.  Big rainbows on a sunny day!  [You could also walk out on a bridge to a tower and look back, with a beautiful view of them all, which I did for $1.25!]

Then we drove off the island and into the town of Niagara Falls.  Kathy compared it to Tijuana…  It was a bit ugly and dirty,  but she may never have been to Tijuana.  It was much cleaner than TJ.

We headed over there to see the American falls from the other side and to go onto that big overlook structure.   The whole place is very commercialized.  That overlook charged to go out there.   It was a very small fee, but why charge for that?

The campground was extremely nice, but they were the most expensive place we have camped so far, even more than Joe’s Lodge.  It had everything and was very well maintained.  What an incredible place for families with kids!!

Here are some other pics.   We head for the 1000 Islands area  tomorrow. 

 

Heading toward Niagra Falls..

We got a late start for a longer drive today to right outside Sandusky, Ohio.    It was mostly freeway so fairly uneventful.   Lots of road construction in Michigan and Ohio.   Got to go thru my first EZ-Pass toll booths today.  [A big thank you to Connie for going through all our mail and sending the transponder out!!]  The arm went up on the second one,  the first one was already up.   No indication it took our money,  no lights at all.   I guess the arm going up when leaving the turnpike was a good sign.  I got onto my IPASS account and there is no activity yet.   I guess electronic transactions take a while for the EZ-Pass folks.  Maybe they use sneaker.net.    🙂

We just ordered pizza for delivery to the campsite… It’s been a long time between pizza’s..  Maybe April?   Geez.

 

About 60 miles east of our overnight was Cleveland.  I didn’t imagine the factory of sadness town would be so nice looking.  [I was bummed it was too far to go to Michael Symon’s restaurant downtown!]

The second leg of the trip was about as long as the first day’s but at least we ended up on Grand Island next to Niagara Falls.   As we got into the park, it started to pour,  I almost thought it was hailing, it sounded like hail, but it didn’t look like it.   It’s always fun setting up in the rain.   Just finding the site in the downpour was a challenge, and of course it was a back-in site.  Pull thru’s on rainy days are a godsend.

This campground is very, very nice!   Even the showers are top shelf, although the water pressure was a bit on the wimpy side.

Off to the Falls in the morning.

 

Gaylord Michigan & a Tornado warning.

We headed out of Paradise Point Tuesday late in the morning and headed toward the Mackinac Bridge.  It’s a really long bridge with a lot of construction going on that day.   I just looked it up and it’s twice as long as the Verrazano.   Weird thing is the speed limit for loaded trucks is 15 MPH.   Could you imagine trucks crossing the Golden Gate, Verrazano or GW bridges at 15 MPH and it not being rush hour?!

We scheduled 5 days for Gaylord in a KOA just south of town.   Pretty nice place as KOA’s go.   The real reason for staying here was to get the fridge sensor fixed.   We had an appointment on Wednesday @ 9 am for the diagnostic.   Of course it was pouring rain Wednesday morning and I made my way to the RV dealer just north of town.    They took down all the necessary info from the coach and called Norcold to ask that they ship a new sensor.   Norcold asked them to try using a magnet on the sensor,  which I already had done.  But they explained that if the sensor had gotten wet, then I would have needed to wait a couple days to try it.   I didn’t know that at the time.  But when the tech tried it, (it had been almost 2 weeks)  it reset.    He was done and I could leave.   OMG.

Thursday we decided to scrub the coach and use the new central Vac I had installed for a thorough vacuuming.  Wow does that new unit have a lot of suction!!   Kathy might have been right that she thought it might suck the tiles off the floor.   The best thing about a central vac is the air (and dust) does not blow back into the house like a regular vacuum does.   We cleaned everything well.

Wednesday evening right around 6 pm the Emergency broadcast System   Alert went off about a Tornado a bit southwest of us.   Great…  More weather,  I immediately got out the laptop to look at the Doppler for our area.  Wow,  lots of red areas around us.  I went outside and put the chairs, tables and grill back in the belly of the coach and mentioned what I heard to a few of our neighbors.   Thankfully the tornado touched down about 30 miles from us and was an EF0 and did almost no damage.   But the rains came like a banshee and went on for hours, only slacking off a bit around midnight.   Our campground looked like a lake that night .  But Thursday morning it had all drained away.  Must be all sand around here.

Friday was a down day,  we did some grocery shopping and basically was lazy all day.   Hey,  I really am retired.    Saturday I affixed the I-Pass/EZ-Pass Toll Transponder to the windshield.   I attempted to charge it up for all the tolls I will be hitting in Ohio and NY in the next few days as we head toward Niagra Falls.   Turns out I had to add a new credit card number to the account as the one I used to initially order the device and put the minimum amount in the account would not work for reloading the account.  I guess they must use different merchant accounts for initialization and refills.   I use VAN’s for most autopay stuff,  (Virtual Account Numbers) thru my Citi cards.    Sometimes they can be a bit tricky in situations where the might use different merchant numbers each time.  I know Amazon does,  so I cannot use a VAN there,  I tried.

I also spent some time trying to get tickets for some of the TV Shows in NYC.  The Late Show,  SNL and especially for Kathy The Chew and Dr Oz.   It will be interesting to see if any come thru while we are still in the area.

 

 

 

 

Drummond Island.. ho hum..

We decided to check out Drummond island the next day which was via the ferry from De Tour Village.   Turns out they charge for the car and for the passengers.   $14 round trip.   The route to the island is short but is on the main north/south channel from Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, so the ferry dodged a large ore carrier that was really moving south toward Lake Michigan.  There is no other way to the island,  no bridge or causeway.  And after getting over there and driving around for an hour or so, I see why.   It’s a large island with no town and lots of long roads leading seemingly no where.    We were not very impressed.  We had wanted to try a Mexican restaurant there, but it was closed on Mondays.

While we were there, Chris texted us that he was on his way to San Diego to drop off all his worldly possessions as he was moving out of his school apartment at 1111 Wilshire Blvd.  and then the next morning was on a flight to Europe for three weeks, so we headed back to the coach to walk him thru fixing some issues caused by a blackout in our neighborhood last month and also help him get the garage door opened so he could unload his stuff into the garage.  I had powered down most of the house and bolted shut the garage door so it could not be opened from the outside.

He was able to fix everything that had stopped working and then headed toward the U-haul return facility so he could catch the train back to LA!

On Tuesday morning we were headed toward Gaylord Michigan to have the fridges sensor fixed.

Heading toward De Tour Village & Paradise Point RV park.

We left early around 8:30 am so we could hit the dump station and still get to the next park at a reasonable time.   Summer Breeze campground was really nice and I almost didn’t want to leave, but it was time to get to a new spot.   The drive was unremarkable till we hit the city (village) limits when a dark, black cloud enveloped the town and our view out the front.   We pulled over so I could check the NWS CONUS Doppler radar web site.

By now the lightning was spectacular out the front window.   Not really a good thing when you consider what that means.    Anyway, I determined the storm was moving southwest and we should be thru it quickly.  Wow,  was I incorrect!   We started to head to the campground and the storm hit us like a brick.   We got to the turnoff for the road out to the point when the rain and wind picked up significantly.   At one point on that small road, Kathy started yelling that she couldn’t see, slow down!   Inconsequential when you realize I was the one driving.

We came around a 90-degree turn and it was like we hit a hurricane,   The rain was horizontal and hitting us dead on, making the wipers on high of no use then.  I was just driving by braille then, hoping not to hit one of the bumps.    I eventually found the dirt road turnoff for the campground.  Now we only had to get thru the locked gate, to which we had a code.    But when we got there, it was raining too hard to open the window to punch it in.

Then out of nowhere a person started walking toward us with a small umbrella.  He was going to open the gate for us.   You need to realize it was a torrential rainfall.  How his umbrella stayed open in the wind gusts was amazing to me.  What he didn’t know was that I knew the code for the gate, but the rain was coming in at such an angle it was streaming down the driver’s window channel on the inside.   I was just trying to keep it from getting on the floor in the coach. I had lots of towels shoved into the channel to sop it up prior to the channel filling and overflowing on the floor.  For the most part it worked.  And the guy opening the gate made it even better so I didn’t have to open that window to punch in the code.   [Thank you, Tony!]

The sun came out just a few minutes after we parked and I learned the name of the good Samaritan.  His name was Tony and his wife’s name was Julie.    He had just purchased his coach a few months ago too.   His license plate was a take-off on Cousin Eddy from the Christmas Vacation movie.  I had not seen that one, but am looking for a download soon as Cousin Eddy had a motorhome.  It was the same year as ours and had done some upgrades to get it just right.

An hour later we were sitting outside watching the water as the sun was slowly making its way toward the horizon over this glorious little bay in front of us.  Large cargo ships were traversing the waterway in the distance, and now that the sun is down, with full lights blazing.

We sat outside talking with the neighbors about their travels and where they were heading till the mosquitoes forced all of us to head into our RV’s quickly.   Tonight was Kathy’s mosquito introduction.   We don’t have mosquitoes in San Diego.

 

 

Iron Mountain in the UP of Michigan

The roads in Wisconsin are pretty rough compared to both Minnesota and Michigan.   I guess fewer tax dollars are coming out of Washington for them, or they are being diverted somewhere else.   Currently we are staying on US 2 while trekking from Minnesota to Michigan and it appears it goes into Canada from Michigan, so we will probably head south toward Detroit.

We stopped in this town to get our fridge’s sensor replaced but that didn’t work out as planned.  Brought it over to an RV place in the next town over, but they didn’t read the requirement instructions prior to me getting there and only then did they realize they needed litmus paper as part of the diagnostics to get the new part from Norcold.   No one they or I could find had litmus paper.   So back to the campground I went.  Doubting I will hear from them, I choose a service center a few hundred miles away in Gaylord, MI, and made an appointment for the middle of next week.  (earliest they had, and I had to lay a guilt trip on the service manager to get that appointment)

While we were in Duluth, Kathy decided the central vacuum wasn’t working to her satisfaction.  [[Actually I have been telling him that all along!]  After a bit I agreed and went into the basement to check the bag and it was fine.  I noticed the flex pipe was kind of collapsing when turned on, but also realized it was hopeless as the angles were too severe and the pipe was collapsing at the 90 degree turn.

I ordered a new Dirt Devil Central Vacuum system while we were there to be delivered to our next stop in Iron Mountain.   And I finally got Intel to help me replace our Motorhome’s DVR server  NUC that crapped out about a month ago.   They offered to refund the price so I could buy a new one.   That turned out to be good for me as I purchased a new one for the same price but the CPU speed had doubled since I had bought it.

So repairs on the road..   The new DVR is up and running and the central vacuum was replaced last night.  What a difference that made,  Kathy was afraid the new one might suck the tiles off the floor. 🙂   I had been anticipating a tough job to replace it, but it was much easier than expected.   [Except a lot of time on the floor and knees, ouch!]  The new unit included a new wall receptacle and a much larger hose from that to the unit mounted in the basement.   Luckily I was able to use the old hose to fish the new hose thru the opening way back underneath the fridge.   That new hose was also a lot more ridged, so it is not going to collapse like the old one.

Thankfully I had my cordless multi-tool with me so I could cut the opening in the wall a bit larger to accommodate the new wall receptacle.  Only took one extra charge of the battery to finish it.  Harbor Freight Rocks!

 

 

Heading for De Tour Village in the morning.

 

Duluth Minnesota

We arrived early to our campsite at a marina near the aerial bridge on the Duluth waterfront yesterday.   I was not sure what to expect, but turns out Duluth is a really cool town.    And as you could see from the real-time camera on the coach, we had a nice view.

We had already been stuck at the aerial bridge twice while sailboats went thru.   It seems the boats blow their air-horns three times – a long, a short and another short – the bridge blows its much louder horn, the same sequence as some sort of tradition.     Those horns are very loud, but I did not hear them at night.  I doubt I could have slept thru that bridge horn.

We spent about half the day at an emergency vet hospital after we got into Duluth as Baxter was not doing well and it was Sunday, so the regular vets weren’t open.   He could barely move about and would not get out of bed Saturday morning.    Had a bunch of tests for a lot of money and nothing was positive, but the vet thinks he caught a tick-borne illness, so Baxter is on Doxycycline for a month.

Today he is already acting like he is feeling much better.  Right now he is sleeping on his back in his bed, making me think he feels a lot better.   His temperature feels cooler.  He wouldn’t even get up for food, so as you can see from the pic, he is almost back to normal.   We had to bring it over to him and he would eat it very slowly.  Both our pups inhale food normally and will jump around while you are fixing it.   Seeing Baxter not move from the couch yesterday was a first for him.  Poor guy had a 104 temperature.

Once he was acting more normal, we decided to drive up to Split Rock Lighthouse, about an hour up the coast from Duluth.   More pretty country all the way up. When we arrived, they were pet unfriendly, so we took turns going to see the lighthouse.   Since it was high on a cliff, it was not very tall and took just a minute to climb to the top.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a balcony to look out, which isn’t the norm I’ve experienced, so it was a short stay in there.   I did look thru the light keeper’s house, which was pretty nice.  There were three homes for them to live in.  Not sure why it took three as I cannot remember seeing that at any lighthouse before.

Those big horns on the top of the building in the pic are fog horns.  I bet they were loud!  As we headed back down to Duluth, we stopped at Kathy’s favorite fast food restaurant, Subway, for a glorious Salad.   I got a sandwich, which I must admit was pretty tasty.   The pups only got a walk out of it.   Poor boys!  Just being abused.

Later that day I was coming back from a grocery run and coming down the hill back into Duluth was a spectacular view of the lake, the town, the spit of land we were staying on, and that huge bridge.   From all the big piles of stuff and large grain silos, I would say the main industry is shipping via freighters in this town.

Speaking of which, we got to experience one of them first hand as a coal freighter was leaving town while we were at the park.  We were still at the park near the bridge and I noticed the bridge was going up as the bells were going off.  I looked back to see it was all the way up.  I had not see that happen the other times I looked when a boat was going thru.  And then the bells stopped with the roadway at the top of the bridge.   I had not heard the bells stop with the bridge open either.

I had to investigate what was going on.   Turns out there was a large ship quite a ways back in the harbor and it was moving very slowly and making a big turn.   It took about 10 minutes from the time I went to look before it was at the bridge…  Those poor folk waiting in their cars.   The ship was over a thousand feet long and was carrying coal to some town in Michigan.   I happened to be standing on the deck off the museum so they announced a lot of info about the ship.

 

 

Winnie Dam on the Mississippi.

We lucked out and found this campground at the last minute.  What a beautiful site it was in Winnie Dam Campground,  built and managed by the ACOE (Army Corps of Engineers).  We had about 1/2 a football field of clearing and trees around the RV for $12 a night.   It only had 50 amp electric with no water or sewer hook ups, but there is a dump site that looked very nice.

I knew the water situation before going, so I filled the 120 gallon water tank and emptied the other tanks prior to leaving Joe’s.    We really only need the electric so we can run both the AC’s.    We can run them both on the genny, but so far we have only been running it on our lunch breaks in the Interstate rest stops.  We get both AC’s and the microwave while parked on the hot tarmac.   That is a pretty awesome capability when you think of it.   Our genny is a quiet diesel, so it just sips from our engine’s tank and can power everything in the coach if we decide to boondock.   We also have 4 house batteries and a 2,800 watt inverter that can also power everything except the AC’s quietly.

I ventured over to look at the dam on Lake Winniebigoshish, which is the Mississippi River.   It says it’s 170 river miles from the headwaters, which seems odd as we were there the day before,  couldn’t have been 60 miles as the crow flies.  And it’s a very big lake!

While I was walking over there, I was scoping out the exit to see if I could get out of the woods with the car attached or if I needed to hook it up afterward.   I was able to maneuver out with the car attached.

Off to Duluth…

Mississippi Headwaters & Joe’s Lodge Campground.

We headed north on US 59 from Detroit Lakes Friday morning to take that all the way up to US 2 heading toward Bemidji and Joe’s  Lodge about 10 miles east of town.   We had a difficult time getting anything near Bemidji and ultimately found Joe’s which had 2 RV sites.   It was a quaint little place a couple miles down a fairly well-graded dirt road.   But as soon as we turned down their driveway, the tree branches dropped a couple of feet lower and were bouncing off the antennas.   Then a much thicker branch scrapped the satellite and A/C units..   Kind of sucked.

Got down to the bottom of a small grade and found the office, checked in, and the lady lead me to the site.   First thing I noticed was the electric pedestal was next to the road and the water and sewer were about 40′ away at the extreme back of the site.   I knew this was going to be a challenge.   I guess they had a lazy electrician as putting that pedestal near the road will be a problem for most RV’rs.   As it was, I had to move the front of the rig all the way up to the road with my mirror sticking out into the road so the power cord could reach the pedestal.  And I have a pretty long cord at 30′.   30′ of that 50 amp cord probably weighs a couple hundred pounds.  Thankfully I have a power reel to pull it back in.

Anyway,  we got the RV set up, fixed some lunch and headed out for Lake Itasca and the Mississippi Headwaters about an hour away.

We arrived, paid our way into the state park and drove to the other side of the park to walk down the trail to the water.   It was a very pretty, tree-shady trail out there, maybe a quarter of a mile or a little less, but we were there in a few minutes, and the dogs were allowed on the trails (Hooray!) 

It’s hard to imagine the headwaters, which is a small watering hole with a rock bridge so you can cross, is the beginning of the Mighty Missippi!!

We spent maybe 20 minutes out there to get a picture and watch the kids playing in the water when I noticed very dark clouds moving in, so we hightailed it back to the car.   Good thing as we had left our rain gear in the RV as it was beautiful when we left home and also when we arrived at the state park gate.

No sooner than we got the pups into the car, it started to rain.  Just a bit at first, then the winds changed an order of magnitude and we were in a big blow as we headed out of the trail parking lot.   It poured and the wind howled like we hadn’t seen prior.   It became as dark as night even though it was about 4 hours till sundown.   Most of the drive back toward Bemidji was at 30 MPH on the 60 MPH road.   That almost felt too fast for the conditions.

As we got into Bemidji, the rain subsided and the sun almost came back out.  We had to drive over to Paul Bunyun and Babe, the Blue Ox, for a quick pic.   Kathy wouldn’t even get out of the warm and dry car.   We made a quick trip to the market for fruit and veggies and headed east to the coach.

As we turned onto the dirt road, we saw two trees in the road.  We were able to go around one of them, but the other blocked the whole road.  (sign of things to come)  I tried to move it, but it wasn’t going to budge, so I drove over it at the edge almost in the ditch, to Kathy’s dismay.

The wind had really ripped thru the campground, snapping large trees off at 10 feet off the ground, ripped the shade structure off the RV across from us.  Lots of damage.   The power and water were out.  And as I noticed, so was my refrigerator.   Not good as it should have gone into battery/propane mode.

Other than the fridge being dead, we saw nothing else with the coach.   I spent many hours that night and the next morning troubleshooting it till I found a bad sensor the next morning and jumped around it till we can get somewhere to get a replacement.    Hey,  now I know where are the fridge relays, breakers and fuses reside – three completely different places in the RV!

 

Oh the Joys of Traveling!

Detroit Lakes and the surrounding area.

We were spending 5 days in Detroit Lakes to visit some friends/relatives.  I had to trust Kathy on the “relative” aspect as I would have needed a flow chart to follow the relationships.   Turns out they were visiting relatives too, and they lived right on Little Detroit Lake year round.  (I cannot imagine what it would be like to live on a large lake in northern Minnesota in the winter)

The funniest thing occurred, our campground was maybe a mile from their house.  Not sure how we did that as I did not know where they were in Detroit Lakes when I made the reservation.

Detroit Lakes is a nice little town with lots of railroad tracks and lots of long trains on them.  We all went to breakfast the first morning at a small cafe in the heart of downtown.   Wheat or white toast.  Geez, the Midwest.  Where’s my sourdough or even rye bread?   The food was good, but don’t ask for Chulula sauce,  just received a blank stare.   The best part was at the end of the meal we tried to pay the bill with our credit cards.  They didn’t take cards,  just cash.  the Midwest strikes again.  Between the 4 of us, we scrounged up enough to be allowed to leave without doing the dishes…  Off to the ATM.

Afterward we toured the lakes and Kathy wanted to see the turkey farm Jacki’s family grew up on, so we headed out there.   The farmhouse, barn and a few outbuildings were still there, but the rest of the farm was sold to a large corporation.  Not sure what they are doing over there.     A funny thing happened as we drove up the driveway and around to the back of the house,  there was a woman and a young child sitting there and she waved to us to come in, she said she had been expecting us.   I started thinking I was in a Twilight Zone episode.    We were all wondering why she was expecting us..  It was just a bit odd to me.   (turns out she was actually expecting a real estate agent, as they are selling the property)

Jacki gave us the grand tour of the area:   the cabin she and John owned with her parents, schools they went to, where friends lived, and just a beautiful drive around the lake and the town.  We ended the day with hors d’oeuvres and beers at the Longbridge  Grill, overlooking the lake in the afternoon.   Left as it was about to rain.

Tuesday started late,  delicious albondigas soup by Jacki at the house,  then Dairy Queen.  Haven’t been there in ages!!

Wednesday, we all piled in the car with the dogs and drove to Park Rapids, a cute little town about an hour east of Detroit Lakes.  Spent a couple hours strolling through the shops with a stop for John to get a haircut!  We never did find the rapids!

When we got back, we enjoyed burgers and beer at the Shorewood Pub on Lake Street.  Great burgers!!   Then after a break for a rest, we got together and went to the  movies:  War of the Planet of the Apes.  Fun to go to the movies, which we hardly ever do, but it was a sad one 🙁

Thursday Jacki invited us over for relaxing at their beautiful backyard on the lake and a wonderful salmon dinner.  Her cousins were there and some other friends came over.  It was so nice to see Jacki and John for a longer visit.  Crazy that we met up about 2,000 miles from San Diego!!!!!  Who would have thought that?!